by Jason Hicks
With Halloween just around the corner we took a (mad) scientific poll here at Aperion HQ to come up with our favorite scary movies to share with everyone. Since you might have little ones around we kept it mostly family friendly and left the truly terrifying ones off the list, (The Shining, I'm looking at you!) but there's still enough frightful fun here to shake a skeleton finger at, enjoy!
The Nighmare Before Christmas
No Halloween list would be complete without an entry from the uniquely twisted mind of Tim Burton, and The Nightmare Before Christmas stands tall as one of his most creative works. Even though he technically didn't direct it, his sensibility pervades this stop motion masterpiece's visuals and off kilter story which imagines different holidays as personified by towns that prepare all year for their big night. The movie works as either a Halloween or Christmas tale as the residents of "Halloween Town" attempt to usurp Christmas from its rightful owners. Odd yet light hearted and with some outstanding songs by the brilliant Danny Elfman, it's a treat for kids of all ages.
Ok maybe this one isn't really for the kids, but it is pretty tame by today's standards and most of the "adult" humor will probably sail right over their heads. Plus most of today's kids when faced with a black and white movie will probably be reaching for a Nintendo DS or iPad in short order, darn whipper snappers! Anyway, this classic routinely ends up on lists of the funniest movies of all time and rightly so, the combination of Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder is pretty much guaranteed comic genius. This scene with Gene Hackman as the worst host ever sticks out as a highlight.
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
If you are like me, watching this on TV every Halloween is something of a tradition. That Peanuts was way ahead of its time and provided the prototype for the "lovable loser" that is commonplace in comedy these days is no secret. That said, it's still fairly amazing that a cartoon that is basically about disappointment aired on network TV in the mid 60s. From Charlie getting rocks instead of candy to the Great Pumpkin never appearing, the episode is fraught with failure, even Snoopy loses his battle with the Red Baron. But in the end Linus holds out hope that the Great Pumpkin will show up next year, and it's reslience in the face of defeat that ends up being Charles Schulz's enduring message.
Be warned that it is rated R, but it's mostly just for a few swear words and pretty light gore so it's probably OK for most teenagers. Plus we had to include at least one zombie movie and this comedic take on the genre is refreshing and fun. It also has one of the best opening sequences in memory with excellent use of graphics, slow-mo and a spot on music choice in Metallica's "For Whom the Bell Tolls". Most zombie movies have subtexts about something else, such as George Romero's riffs on Cold War politics, and Zombieland is no exception. At its heart it's really just the story of an anxious young man trying to find his way in the world, which in this case happens to be filled with flesh eating monsters. Along with the perfect casting choices of Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson, keep your eyes out for a "killer" cameo in the middle of the movie.
Addams Family Values
The original Addams Family movie had some predictably creepy laughs but this is the rare case of a sequel that actually surpasses the original. That's in no small part due to the addition of the comically gifted Joan Cusack as the film's villain. The Addams' also welcome a new baby, Pubert, and the running gag of his siblings' attempts to kill him comes off as more Looney Tunes than Psycho, which is a testament to the movie's ability to walk a fine line between macabre and funny. The Burton inspired neo-Gothic production design gives you something to look at as the gags fly by and the cast is having so much fun it's down right infectious, pun intended.